Reviews written by registered user

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87 reviews in total 
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Stay (2005/I)
292 out of 399 people found the following review useful:
A top notch Lynch-y psychological thriller, 22 October 2005

This is really a spectacular film. I know I'm going to have to see it at least once more, because there's so much stuff going on that it's impossible to give Stay the attention in deserves in one viewing.

First and foremost, although I won't give away the plot here, I'll say that the movie (thankfully) does not rely on a surprise ending for the totality of its impact. In fact, if you're paying attention, you can pretty much figure out (mostly) what the situation is before you get too far into the movie. Unlike some of the worst examples of this genre (i.e. The Sixth Sense), Stay is not a film that "hides the ball," but instead presents you with characters and a storyline, and asks you to draw your own conclusions.

That said, there isn't an obvious solution to the movie. While you may be able to explain the film after viewing it (which is trickier that it will seem at first), you may realize that the real brilliance of this film is in the levels of its narrative. At its core, it is a basic psychological thriller. Simultaneously, and perhaps subconsciously, it also meditates on weighty issues of reality and identity- consider what the imperative "Stay" means to different characters at different points in the film, and it's almost like you're watching an entirely different movie than you originally thought.

Finally, the visuals in this movie provide their own context and narrative regarding the fragile nature of human memory and perception. This is the best looking movie I've seen in a long time, and the fact that it's combined with such a great story and cast makes this a rare treat.

If there is a weak link here, it's probably Gosling, who I think missed some opportunities to really dig in with his character and creep us out. Still his acting is better than that of most of Hollywood's garbage these days.

Final verdict: if you want a smart and unsettling film that will spur a serious discussion, watch this. You won't be disappointed.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An interesting and relevant, if not perplexing, morality tale, 24 September 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is by no means a bad movie- indeed, it is much better than most schlock these days- but it is part of a growing category of films with a very specific problem. It does not seem to have a specific audience in mind, or if it does, it is not approaching that audience in the proper way.

Most people will see this film because it is to all appearances the follow-up to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Visually, this is true- Corpse Bride looks and feels very similar to the older film, although computer animation makes this one look even better.

However, whereas The Nightmare Before Christmas maintained a jovial, family friendly theme and plot (complete with misunderstood heroes and dastardly villains), Corpse Bride gives us a quiet little story about three young adults who find themselves in an impossible moral situation. Promises are made which must be kept, and out of three people, one must inevitably end up heartbroken. The three central characters are all exceedingly likable- although one may believe Emily is to be the villain of the piece, she consistently demonstrates as much humanity as anyone.

Ultimately, the film is about one very difficult moral choice that has to be made by one of the characters. The choice is made and the movie ends, but unless you're paying really close attention, it's difficult to understand why the characters act as they do, and why the film has the ending that it does. While not giving anything away, I'll say that in this sense, the third act of the film presents a very mature dilemma that children (and many adults) are not going to appreciate.

Of course, the frustrating thing about this movie is that so much time is spent on song and dance numbers that the moral and romantic elements never really get fleshed out. As such the film (like Victor) is stuck between two worlds, and never really makes up its mind where it wants to be. On this point, then, it fails.

It's probably still worth watching, although Tim Burton has done much better in the past.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not a horror film, but something better, 10 September 2005

Okay. The game's up. Despite what you've seen on TV, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not really a horror film. Approximately half of the film has elements of what are best described as horror, but the other half is mainly a legal drama with heavy theological and ethical implications. It's not really not a horror film any more than it's a film on legal ethics, a subject to which the film devotes almost as much time as demonic possession.

Make no mistake, though: this is a great film, and will be recognized and remembered in the way very few films are. Kurosawa's Rashomon was groundbreaking in its own moral and philosophical musings, and until now, the potential of that film has never been explored.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the next logical step after Rashomon- that is, a film which explores the nature of truth and moral responsibility in the subjectivity of human experience through the blending and clash of two disparate movie genres: a horror film and a legal thriller. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, rather than being part of either of these genres, uses them to illustrate the absurdity of our search for truth (or in the case of a homicide, an explanation).

Whereas the characters at the end of Rashomon despaired that they would never know the truth of a murder, this film wisely suggests that perhaps, in the end, obtaining an explanation is not the point. It suggests that truth may in fact be something deeper and less tangible, which a hard-nosed insistence on the "facts" cannot hope to touch.

In year of one disgustingly bad film after another, this is the best by far.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Shame on you, Mr. Romero., 4 July 2005

*one minor spoiler* I just saw Land of the Dead, and I'm horrified. But it has nothing to do with zombies.

As a tremendous fan of the original trilogy, I was really looking forward to this film. Until this point the Dead films were intelligent horror, pitch-perfect social satire, and scathing critique all rolled into one.

Land of the Dead, however, is just a mess that was thrown together to cash in on the renewed interest in the genre. I honestly wish this film had never been made.

I knew I was going to have problems when not 20 minutes into the movie we have product placement- yes, ***product placement*** in a Romero film- as a character loads Pepsi Cola (tm) onto a truck to ship back to the other humans. Pepsi makes at least one more appearance front and center amid all the carnage, as do several brands of liquor and champagne (one of which, if I'm not mistaken, was Malibu (tm) Coconut Rum).

This alone is unacceptable. But it gets worse.

The story has no discernible direction, and ultimately flails while trying to make some scatterbrained points about homelessness, social class, and terrorism. Unlike its predecessors, Land of the Dead has no central theme or soul- it just knocks around 3 or 4 omnipresent social issues, trying to look important and meaningful between zombie battles.

The actual film itself is made up of scenes from Dawn and Day, both of which were far better movies. In fact, there's one scene (you'll know it when you see it) which appears to have been pulled directly from Dawn of the Dead.

The characters are flat, soulless caricatures: a hooker with a heart of gold, a working man who has been exploited by those in power, and (worst) Simon Baker, perhaps the blandest actor since Keanu Reeves, offering absolutely nothing other than the fact that he's a good-looking white boy that looks like he should be in charge. Shameful, Mr. Romero.

And the zombies. I never thought I would roll my eyes at a Romero zombie film, but here I did it numerous times. The character of Big Daddy (and the other Constant Zombies) is ridiculous in how he persists for the entire movie without getting his head blown off, despite numerous attempts by numerous characters. The fact that he lives through the film is not only statistically improbable. It's stupid, unnecessary, and insulting, not to mention antithetical to the spirit of the first three films.

Finally comes the unkindest cut of all- Romero abandons the long-time fans of the franchise. Rather than continue the story of the Dead films as he did with Dawn and Day, Romero sets this film in (approximately) modern day America, and the zombie attack has happened recently, within the characters' lifetimes (recently enough that the Pepsi (tm) in the films looks like the Pepsi (tm) you'd see at the grocery store today. Just in case you want to buy some after the movie.) Any fan of the originals will recall that the original zombie attacks took place from the late 60's into the 70's- meaning that the characters in this film, with a few exceptions, would not have been able to witness the first zombie attacks. Which would make sense, given the way the social structure in the film is so different from our own . . .

. . . except, there's the Pepsi (tm).

Shame on you, Mr. Romero.

Darkness (2002)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This is a shame, 11 June 2005

I have a lot of sympathy for this film, and I really wanted to like it. Kudos to the writer/director for attempting to make a serious supernatural horror film in the tradition of the shining with spectacular visuals, an intriguing story, and a low body count. This is the sort of film that the Japanese are becoming very good at and American films need to begin emulating. Good casting choices, particularly in Olin and Paquin.

But . . . does it have to be so . . . incredibly . . . BORING? This movie is the filmic equivalent of a sleeping pill. The writer/director, in a misguided attempt to build suspense, keeps too much of the central plot away from the audience for too long while laying far too much exposition. Even if we are absolutely saving the supernatural fiasco for the finale, I would have liked to see more of a Jack Nicholson-style family breakdown originating from the father. (I never really felt threatened by Iain Glen, and I think that detracted from the experience).

The film also suffers from Blair Witch Syndrome, which is the commonly held misconception of "The less we tell you, the scarier it is." No no no. Horror is an intellectual exercise- if you give us nothing to work with in our heads, all we have is a bunch of gory images and loud noises. That's not scary; it's just jarring. The RULE is that you show and tell only what you NEED to, and nothing more.

Unfortunately, this film suffers and ultimately fails because it was made by people with no understanding that horror is ultimately an intellectual genre. Horror films require more careful crafting and attention to detail than perhaps any other genre. This film has some of that style, but not nearly enough to stop it from being a 100+ minute soporific.

***Update from the following evening***- okay, I'll just say that maybe I was too hard on this movie before. I actually did have nightmares as a result of this movie. For me that bumps it from a 6 to a 7, although I still maintain my original position that the pacing is abysmal.

11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Certainly not the best TV show ever, but still better than anything else you'll find these days, 21 May 2005

*spoilers . . . you can't really discuss this series without spoilers*

Okay, let me start by saying I love David Lynch. I also love Twin Peaks, what it was aspiring to, and how often it met those aspirations.

Unfortunately, TV sets some pretty low standards. Despite the fact that Twin Peaks was a great TV show, it had *huge* problems.

The show starts as a murder mystery, and as such, introduces us to a gargantuan cast with colorful characters. Each character has his or her world view and a possible motive for having done the deed. This structure is typical for a murder mystery.

However, another typical feature of the murder mystery is that it has GOT to narrow down and start telling the story at this point. Round about episode 13 or 14 you'll start to realize that 70% of the characters and situations in the series are not germane to the story Lynch was originally trying to tell. Worse, some of them turn like sour milk and take on gruesome lives of their own. Frankly put, I don't *care* if the orphan is a prototype problem child, I don't care *care* that the idiot millionaire is stuck in some stupid Civil War reenactment, and I *certainly* don't care what's going on with the frigging Packard saw mill and the whole real estate development business (which incidentally didn't even make sense from day one, except as a possible murder motive).

Simply put, this series has too much dead weight. The love stories are interesting, but often irrelevant (e.g., Ed and Norma). The ones that are relevant (e.g., Donna and James) suffer because they have to compete for time with all of these absurd subplots.

This series is about the death of Laura Palmer, the discovery of her killer, the implications of that discovery, and the fallout on the people surrounding these events (Cooper, Donna, James, Windom Earle, Annie, etc. etc.). The shows that managed to do this make some of the best TV I've ever seen; "Lonely Souls" is one of the best episodes I've ever seen of a TV show ever. Unfortunately, three episodes later I was wondering what happened, and why my show had become such complete garbage. Then it picked up again as the real plot started moving.

The reason this show got canceled and X-Files was on for eight years was that X-Files actually had some focus and a clear idea of the story it wanted to tell. It's a shame that this couldn't have continued- I really wanted to know what happened with the Black Lodge and the White Lodge . . .

Watch it and enjoy it. Prepared to get VERY bored for the next few episodes after 16.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Are you serious?, 1 August 2004

I'm feeling generous today. M. Night Shyamalan gets a 3/10 from me because this movie had some decent visuals and a neat beginning concept. Everything- EVERYTHING- else about this movie is terrible.

The story has been beaten to death so many times elsewhere that for me to do it yet again here would just be cruelty. Suffice to it say that the plot of this film is neither suspenseful nor well-written. Unlike M. Night's earlier transgressions, this one is almost devoid of ALL interesting moments including the patented M. Night Shyamalan Cheap Sound Effects Scare (tm). As I sat there for what seemed like eternity, I was practically bored to tears on several occasions.

The acting. The acting. The acting. I have the idea that M. Night thinks it's funny to collect a superb cast and then give them all a terrible script and worse stage direction so that everybody not only turns in the worst performance of their careers, but sound like they are rehearsing a high school play. I honestly thought for the first half of the movie, "No, surely the acting cannot be *this* bad by default. He must be doing it on purpose." However, the jilted line delivery, wooden acting, and transparent facades of emotion from such cinematic greats as Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt (and promising newcomers such as Bryce Dallas Howard) continued unabated throughout the entire film. This is the most painful part of the film, and perhaps M. Night's worst offense yet to American cinema.

Because the acting is so terrible, any emotional effect whatsoever that would have been present in the movie is drained. I simply didn't care whether anyone lived or died, and frankly thought the "creatures" were the most interesting thing to look at (if one can properly say that- I won't spoil it here, but suffice it to say that if you go to this movie expecting an in depth exploration of the supernatural, you are going to be angry.)

M. Night's latest trend is to include at least one thing in his movie so idiotic that he completely insults even the most basic audience member's intelligence. Here, he manages to offend through the character of Ivy (to say she was played ineptly by Howard is to be luxuriously kind to both Howard and Shyamalan), who although blind, manages to run though field, woods, and houses without much trouble, can instantly locate any item she needs, looks people in the eyes when talking to them, and can "see colors" despite he blindness. In some scenes, Howard even appear to have forgotten that her character is blind.

Shyamalan: Are you serious? Am I actually to believe that this was a serious attempt at an adult film (let alone a thriller?) after Signs, I simply called you a bad film maker. Now, I'm beginning to wonder whether you might actually be mildly retarded. I hope you're not serious.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
And . . . OVER the head it goes, 13 June 2004

This is a good movie. It may even be better than the original, which incidentally I liked very much. (I will say, though, that it's a crime Katharine Ross was asked back for this one- maybe for the Glenn Close role?)

And now, the part so few people want to hear.

This is, as has been mentioned elsewhere, more comedy than horror. Most fail to realize however, that it's more satire than either comedy or horror. Such *nasty* satire at that, that the humor becomes almost serious by the end of the film, and we should be left realizing that the first 15 minutes are meant to be as disturbing as the last 15 minutes.

HELLLLLOOOOOO America! Stepford is supposed to be us. Worse, it *is* us. Put down the popcorn and think about it, because despite the laughs, this is a very serious movie.

The original film was made during a time of radical social change in the sexual arena. Feminism and sex roles were revolutionary concepts, and were thus best presented in a horror film, with the main character teetering on the brink of the unknown, unsure of the fate which awaited her, until she was eventually consumed by her existence.

This film is made during yet another time of social change: although we have largely accepted that gender roles and stereotypes are idiotic, we nonetheless cling to them because we don't know what else to do. Take a look at our country's division over same sex marriage- do you think it's an accident that they put a same sex couple in the forefront of this film?

Stepford *is* America, a land where we have two kinds of people: men and women. The men act like men, and the women act like women. Anyone not fitting into the pattern will be *forced* to fit the pattern, because deviations . . . well . . . they're just not very nice.

Are you still laughing? I hope you like irony with your popcorn.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Umm . . . yeah, no thanks, 10 May 2004

I enjoy Hartley's work. I found _Trust_ absolutely fantastic. I am also thoroughly disenchanted with the media and the society that it greats. What I'm trying to say here is that I wanted to like this movie. However, after sitting through it not once but twice in the same evening, I'm afraid that _No Such Thing_ is subpar at best.

My biggest complaint comes from the script, which feels clipped and constrained in the 100 minutes or so the movie takes. Too often, the story moves us and the characters from one locale or situation to another with little or no explanation how we got there (for example, when the monster is first in an experiment room and then in a filthy alley with no connection between the scenes). The dialogue, usually razor sharp and the highlight of Hartley's films, often falls flat and stops short of articulating the meaningful points that Hartley no doubt understands and desperately wants to communicate. The characterization suffers either from being much to heavy handed (as with Beatrice's boss, who goes so far over the top even satire is offended) to choppy and uneven (as Beatrice herself, who flucuates from nice girl to martyr to party animal to nice girl to martyr without a breath. At least one character (Artaud) had an accent so thick that it was nearly impossible to tell what he was saying (see: _Cold Mountain_), and I get a feeling from what I understood that his character was central to the message of the film.

There were some high points. Burke is fantastic as the monster and provides the most enjoyable moments in the film with his cynical, resigned brand of dark humor and philosophical undertones. I've never met an immortal monster that existed since time began, but if I did, I'd be willing to bet that it would be a lot like this guy.

Polley also does a good job with the bizarre material she's given, especially in the beginning and the end of the film. It is to her credit in the middle that she does not make the script seem ridiculous at all, even though objectively it is.

For the part she gives us, Mirren is also wonderful as Beatrice's cold hearted boss. She's obviously having the time of her life in this role.

Final analysis: this is for Hartley or Polley completists, and not really for anyone else. Another entry in the book of disappointing films.

7 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Mr. Haneke, will you please let the audience in on whatever the joke is?, 10 April 2004

When folks call a film "pretentious," I usually believe it's just because they don't wish to take the time to understand it. That said, this film catapults beyond pretentious straight into downright hostile. Haneke, in a spasm of lazy, uninspired filmmaking, has chosen to make a film so utterly incomprehensible that even David Lynch fans such as myself will simply scratch their heads and wonder, "Now *what* was the point of all that?"

Yes, yes, yes. I know. It's called Code Unknown, not Code Obvious. So, supporters will argue, this should be a difficult film. Frankly, it ridiculous to suggest that a film should somehow resemble the concept it is trying to communicate. (Incidentally, how can a film ever successfully resemble a *concept*? But I digress . . .)

The editing, though clever, completely detaches us from the characters emotionally. That's a good thing though, because with the exception of Binoche you will see them so infrequently you'll forget they were even a part of the film. The conclusion is anti-climactic, absurd, and (you got it) pretentious. The only thing I got was this film was a major freakout from the little deaf girl at the beginning. I *never* want to see her face on my TV screen , shaking her head in that disapproving way again. Brr.

Leave this one alone.

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